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Then and Now: The Slade Graduate Show

Each May and June, the UCL Slade School of Fine Art opens its doors for the annual Slade Degree Shows. The shows exhibits artworks by graduating students, and are a culmination of the students’ hard work over the course of their studies. In the run up to this year’s show we spoke to current student Georgia Lucas-Going and alumna Margaret Lovell about their time at the Slade.

Georgia Lucas-Going 'I've Given You Everything Up Until Now, '2015 - 2017'

Georgia Lucas-Going, (UCL MFA, 2017)

Georgia Lucas-Going is a final year Master of Fine Arts student at the Slade and will be exhibiting in this year’s Graduate Degree Show. She was nominated for a Sarabande Scholarship by the artist Matthew Stone. You can follow Georgia on Instagram: @GEORGIAWEIRDO

My practice discuses memory, ethics, disparate social and cultural groupings. I use humour to confront issues such as mourning, mental health, power dynamics and failure with often slapstick outcomes. I work with performance and videos often exhibited within an installation and most recently I’ve been exploring sound and dance as a tool of resistance and power.

Studying my MFA at Slade was a conscious choice. I wanted to go to a school where my peers would be better than me and my tutors were artists I admire. There’s nothing that makes you work harder.

One of the most interesting things I’ve done at UCL is curating a night of art performances at the UCL Bloomsbury theatre alongside Eom Jeonyoung. The space and staff are incredible. 

It’s not exactly hidden, but the Anthropology Library is a UCL gem. I spend perhaps more time here than in the Art Library.

I find inspiration from talking to my peers at Slade, going back home to Luton, meeting other black and brown artists, going out dancing, visiting exhibitions, finding moments where you feel totally free and figuring out why, comedy shows, watching people, going to the IAS lecture series at UCL. Having one day off a week is inspiring also.

Every time I show new work I am always very nervous. The time leading up to an exhibition is stressful so I’m trying to keep my nerves in check so I don’t stifle myself. Doing performance is helpful as you release some endorphins, but it also means I am physically and mentally exhausted both up until the performance and immediately after I can also just crash. That being said, I am excited about showing some new works filmed in Barbados and also seeing what the rest of my peers will present.

I plan on becoming a part time art lecturer and continue to work on my own practice. Keep your fingers crossed for me, but Slade I’m looking at you.

Margaret Lovell, (UCL MFA, 1962)

Award-winning sculptor Margaret Lovell graduated with a MFA from Slade in 1962, before receiving scholarships to study in Florence and Greece, as well as being awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leicester. You can view her current work on her website.

Margaret Lovell whilst studying at the Slade

I was studying at West of England College of Art when I was first introduced to sculpture through stone carving, which I took as my 'craft' subject, simply because I 'fancied' bashing a lump of stone! From then on, I knew I wanted to specialise in sculpture. I have enjoyed a lifetime of being involved with sculpture ever since!

Whist I continued to carve earlier in my career as materials were cheaper, I now almost entirely work in plaster for bronze, very often using clay for a mould, and working in reverse. I 'see' the work in bronze as I make it. It is a beautiful material to use because it can be patinated different colours besides being contrasted with polished areas which come up to reflective. I discovered this contrast of finish of the same material, when I was working at Morris Singer Foundry, then at The Oval in London. It has been extensively adopted by others since. I worked there for experience through the recommendation of F.W.McWilliam, one of the visiting tutors whist I was at Slade.

Before going to the Slade I was determined to make a career in sculpture and not do a teacher training course as an 'insurance policy'! The Slade and RCA where the highest aims possible and if I could not go there, then I was going to get work in a foundry so that I could cast my own work sometimes. However since my tutor, Ernest Pascoe, was Slade trained and in contact with Professor A.H. Gerrard, who was Head of Sculpture at the time, he came to Bristol and saw my work, and accepted me for entry. This was one of the most exciting things that ever happened in my life, and at the time I did not even realise the impact that experience would have on me.

Whilst at UCL I loved working in the outdoor basement area over the weekend all alone. The Professor would leave his office window open so I could climb in and plug in my drill. Not so good when I caught my hair in drill once and had to do some chopping to release myself! There would be a person upstairs in The Bartlett some weekends too, playing a record of Brahms Symphony No. 1. Never knew who it was, but that music always conjures up those days of peaceful working, solitude and freedom.

I did experience unusual films through the Film Society at that time. Also 'discovered' more unusual (for me) classical music as Camden Town was walking distance, and they had a 'Record Library' which was very new in those days. (No Classic FM etc!) Bartok, Mahler and Prokofiev came into my life....big time!

In retrospect I realise that the 'hidden gem' at UCL is someone believing in your work and encouraging you. There has always been someone for me.....right from the art master at school, art college, then Slade, then foundry manager, galleries and clients! Others notice if you have passion for your work, work hard and get on with people.

I don't really believe in 'inspiration' as it conjures up something a little 'airy-fairy'. With sculpture, it's physical work and you just get on with it. I have an idea or thought, and do not want to think about it too much else it becomes 'self -conscious'. I just get materials out and it takes off, leading from one stage to another. Often from one piece to the next too. Or by contrast to something completely different.

The impact of the graduate show was somewhat daunting because it was a 'this is IT' situation…two years of intensive study culminating in a show that others would view. When I was working it was always just me and my involvement, not caring at all about any other factor. That was the awesome thing about the Slade: time and freedom. It could be dwindled away, or intensely grasped, which is what I did. It was an opportunity of a life time! It did have a feeling of achievement to see the work in the show, knowing I had given it my all!

I’ll carry on creating sculpture as long as I can put a bit of pressure on a rasp! Sculpture is part of my 'breathing'! This year I opened my first solo exhibition in southern hemisphere at a great gallery in Auckland- lovely people to work with. Also a rewarding feeling to observe how my work can open up others' imagination. I plan to continue working here in New Zealand, but I still need to keep up contacts with UK galleries that show my work. I also have a commission to develop and complete, once I get back to England in July, which needs to be finished before returning here in September.

The Slade Undergraduate Degree Show is open to the public and runs from 20-25 May, and the Graduate Degree Show runs from 8-18 June. (Open 10am-8pm on weekdays, 10am-5pm on weekends.) You can also view the work online on the Slade website.

Special tours of the Graduate Show are available as part of the UCL It’s All Academic Festival on Saturday 10 June, with booking available via the Festival website.